Review: Garth Nix – FROGKISSER!

FROGKISSER!
Garth Nix

Princess Anya always gets the responsibility of cleaning up after her sister’s messes. Unfortunately, she’s also trying to avoid her step-step father killing her off and taking the throne. When her step-step father makes yet another one of her sister’s wooers a frog, it’s up to Anya to save the day.

Who wouldn’t love a plucky heroine who really just wants to sit in her library and study sorcery? Oh wait, maybe that’s just me. No! I don’t think so. Nix has once again created a strong female character with a set of unique character flaws. She’s young enough to be appealing to young readers, but there are some in-jokes in the novel that teenagers would enjoy too.

I’m going to be handing over my copy of this novel to a 16 year old keen Garth Nix reader to see what he thinks. Is this novel particularly new and exciting? Is it adding something exciting to the genre of fairytales? Maybe is all I can say. It is certainly better than some of the other offerings out there, and if you like Garth Nix, you will probably still love this novel.

What you can’t see from the cover image is the glorious fluorescent yellow page edges. Check out my instagram to see them. It almost makes me want to put the book back-to-front on my bookshelf so that it can stand out!

I can see where this novel could easily become a series – there is reference to an overall set of Rules after all. But this novel was perfect in itself. This novel is far better than the other recent Nix novel, Newt’s Emerald, but not as good as Clariel or Goldenhand. I’m giving it 4 stars, although I would consider reading it again should a sequel appear.

Allen & Unwin | 22 February 2017 | AU $19.99 | Paperback

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Review: Steve Martin – Vet Academy

Vet Academy
Steve Martin

Do you have a child who loves animals? Do they want to be a vet? Do they just have an interest in pets in general? This book is going to be for them. With fun stickers, a poster and a model to build, this book has plenty of things to keep a child entertained.

This book covers animal health needs from pets, to zoos, to farms. It also has fun facts that will perk interest from adults as well. It could be a good book for a long car ride, because there are a range of activities to do.

The reading level in this book is probably a late primary school age, but you can also leave it with a beginning (precocious) reader who will flick through and look at the beautiful illustrations and then ask lots of questions!

This is a non-fiction, so I’m not going to be giving it any stars. But if you have a child who likes animals, or you need to give a gift to a primary school age child, this book is perfect. I can’t think of a child that wouldn’t enjoy having it, even if not all the animals take their fancy.

Allen & Unwin | 25th January 2017 | AU $19.99 | Paperback

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Review: Simon Holland – A Miscellany of Magical Beasts

A Miscellany of Magical Beasts
Simon Holland

Discover the spellbinding stories of sixteen favorite mythical creatures from around the world. Dragons and griffins through to mermaids and giants, this lovingly illustrated novel will be for you.

With gorgeous illustrations and catchy little bits of story about mythical creatures, this large format children’s book is going to suit a range of fantasy enthusiasts. Perhaps you aren’t ready to read a big book of mythology? Perhaps you just want to have a taster of it? This is the book for you.

Of course, my favourite part was bound to be about dragons, and there wasn’t enough detail here for me. But for a beginner, it’s a nice introduction.

This has got to be the perfect gift for the younger someone who wants to know more about mythology past JK Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I’ll be giving it to a 7 year old beginning reader who is simply going to love it.

Bloomsbury | 20th November 2016 | AU $29.99 | Paperback

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Review: A.F. Harrold & Levi Pinfold – The Song From Somewhere Else

The Song From Somewhere Else
A.F. Harrold & Levi Pinfold

Frank is bullied by Noble, who is anything but noble. When Nick, stinky, ostracised Nick, comes to her rescue, it seems unkind (despite being unwise) to not at least spend some time in his company. At his house, Frank hears music that she can’t ignore… but it comes from a most unexpected place.

29785301A fantasy twist on a bullying story, Frank is a character that you will love and want to protect in the beginning. By the end, you might wonder a bit where her spunk has come from, but I personally think it rubbed off from Nick. An innocuous missing cat can start off a range of interworld connections that lead to a better end than could have been imagined.

Oh, did I mention that it’s a beautiful hard cover that has an equally attractive dust jacket, and includes illustrations? I admit, I mainly looked at the illustrations before I got too caught up in the story to pay attention. I think I’d like to go back and look at them now though.

This is what I wanted Little Bits of Sky to be. It’s a whimsical but compelling novel that is suitable for younger readers, but has a splash of creepy just for good measure! I’m giving it 4 stars – I think it could be a great Christmas gift for someone who enjoys both fantasy and teenage fiction.

4star

Bloomsbury | 1st December 2016 | AU $24.99 | Hardback

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Review: Jessica Watson & Dougal Macpherson – Introducing Teddy

Introducing Teddy
Jessica Watson & Dougal Macpherson

Teddy is keeping a big secret from Thomas, and Teddy is worried that Thomas won’t understand and might not like him anymore. Will Teddy be accepted as Tilly?

27158837There’s not very much I can write about a children’s novel so small. Oh, but how will I convey how impressed I am with this?

In a world where transgender individuals are gradually getting the rights they deserve, this novel is how to introduce children from a young age that some people aren’t born into the right bodies for their brains.

It’s sensitive, simple and something that younger readers (maybe grade 1 or 2) will be able to read by themselves (with adult guidance for the contents). The language is straight-forward, and the message of acceptance is clear.

With any children’s book, I’m not sure whether to recommend you buy it, or borrow it from the library as it may only get one read, depending on the age of your child. I received a paperback and a hard copy version, and I donated the hard copy one to my library. Well worth having in a collection of children’s books.

5star

Bloomsbury | June 2016 | $24.99 | Hardback

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Review: Richard Roxburgh – Artie and the Grime Wave

Artie and the Grime Wave
Richard Roxburgh

Artie is always being bullied, along with his rather unfortunately-named pal, Bumshoe. While a shout of ‘Rabbits’ often distracts his dumb tormentors, this time it seems like Artie has gotten into more trouble than he can cope with. With Mary, Funnel-Web and Budgie on his tail, he needs to make things happen… fast.

31927285In the tradition of ‘The Day My Bum Went Psycho’ and ‘The Adventures of Captain Underpants’, this novel contains bums, snot and disgusting boys! If you have a reader that is into that kind of thing, they are going to love this novel.

The action is fast-paced, and the characters such strong caricatures that they will leave some sort of impression in your mind. If you have a weak stomach, and aren’t fond of snot or poop, this probably won’t be for you. There’s bodily fluids flying everywhere!

Honestly, it’s not my kind of novel at all, I didn’t request it to my knowledge. I wouldn’t have read this when I was younger, and the only reason I read this was because I knew my brain would be dead and incapable of digesting good literature after a hard day at work.

Let’s give it 3 stars, and know that there is a deserving audience out there that will enjoy this novel.

3star

Allen & Unwin | 12th September 2016| AU $16.99 | Paperback

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Review: Katherine Rundell – The Wolf Wilder

The Wolf Wilder
Katherine Rundell

Feodora is a trainee Wolf Wilder – someone who retrains wolves to understand living in the wild instead of being pampered pets of the nobility. Unfortunately the wolves she and her mother rehabilitate are too good at going wild again – killing farm animals gets them into trouble with the Tsar, and Feo’s mother is taken away for sentencing to death.

30234552This is told in the style of a fairy tale, which I appreciated. The novel is bookended by short sections that tell us what happened when we aren’t looking from Feo’s perspective. There is a hint of Russian culture, although there could have been more of this. I honestly can say I’m interested in Russia and it has a unique environment that I like (maybe it’s the snow?).

In a way, this reminded me of Dog Boy. This is of course, more of a children’s book, but I enjoyed it because of the way humans and animals like dogs and wolves can interact. There’s something about wolves that just excites me, perhaps because they are wild in a way that other things aren’t. You can’t tame those teeth!

Some other reviewers have complained that the story is boring and predictable. But I’m thinking that they have forgotten what age group this is aimed at. There’s hints of rape, which older readers will pick up, and certainly some blood, but it’s suitable for younger readers. I’d say it’s no worse than a Grimm fairytale! And it’s written in a modern way which works.

For what this novel is, I will happily give it 4 stars. I wasn’t bored, I enjoyed the writing and I find it hard to say no to a novel about a plucky (although somewhat sometimes stupid) heroine and her wolves.

4star

Bloomsbury | 1st October 2016 | AU $12.99| Paperback

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Review: Sue Durrant – Little Bits of Sky

Little Bits of Sky
Sue Durrant

Ira, short for Miracle, is a care kid, as is her brother. For years, they trade between homes until they come to an orphanage where the gardener is the nicest person there! But everyone deserves a happy ending…

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What am I missing? Seriously. Goodreads is full of positive reviews for this novel, going so far as to call it a ‘Modern Classic’. I was left underwhelmed by this novel. I’m not sure what I missed that should have made it a brilliant novel. I guess I didn’t get attached to Ira in any way, and Zac wasn’t any better.

There are other orphanage novels that are more interesting than this one. For that matter, there are plenty of children’s novels that are more interesting than this one. There just wasn’t anything super special. I’d choose Bridge to Terabithia for a similar level of reading – and hard truths.

I waver between giving this novel 2 to 3 stars. It’s not badly written, I finished reading it, yet I was left feeling like I had wasted that hour and a half of my life.

2star

Nosy Crow | 22 June 2016 | AU $14.99 | Paperback

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Review: Dianne Wolfer – The Shark Caller

The Shark Caller
Dianne Wolfer

Izzy’s brother has been killed in a diving accident, and she’s returning to Papau New Guinea to spread his ashes to the sea. She’s always been drawn to sharks in a deeply visceral way – now she must brave the deeps in order to preserve her family’s old ways of life.

30346739This novel reminded me of another that I read a while ago, but never got around to reviewing (very naughty of me). It seemed to be aimed at younger readers, with just enough danger to excite them. Apart from the initial rather traumatic way that Izzy thinks of her brother’s death, it’s not too scary. I can’t think of the ideal audience though, apart from children and early teens who love reading. There are other novels which stand out for me a lot more strongly.

The ‘Papau New Guinea’ language was completely lost on me, perhaps as is normal for me. It’s not something that I’m going to use any other time, and honestly it just interrupted the flow of the novel. I had to stop, work out what they were saying, and then keep reading. Or worse, I just skipped over the words and kept going.

I’m giving this novel 3 stars. It simply didn’t call to me enough with any of it. The sense of inevitability basically covered the whole plot line, as as far as I was concerned, it was completely transparent and unexciting, albeit well written.

3star

Penguin Random House | 1 August 2016 | AU $17.99 | Paperback

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Review: Sheila O’Flanagan – The Crystal Run

The Crystal Run
Sheila O’Flanagan

While running from bullies, Joe finds himself thrown into a new world where he is likely to actually be killed. Joe’s hearing isn’t so good normally, and his ability to understand the new language is even worse. What he does work out is that the Carcassians are mislead from top to toe, but there isn’t much he can do about it.

29078428I’m not sure what I was expecting from this novel. I wanted something fantasy because I was sick of teenage drama. No fear here – a scrap of ‘isn’t she pretty’, but otherwise fantasy running wild. Very satisfying and light to read.

What I liked about this novel was that the main character was flawed in a way that younger readers are going to be able empathise with. There is nothing like a protagonist that could be a regular person, and really isn’t anything special. It makes people feel like they will be travelling with them.

It has been a while since I read a true teenage or early tween novel and I had forgotten that they are usually plot driven. That being said, I didn’t put this novel down. I was intrigued by the things that were going wrong, and honestly, pretty mad at the Carcassians. Sticking your head in the sand isn’t going to solve anything!

I’m going to compare this to The Dragon of the Month Club, and suggest that the latter has more to offer in terms of character development. However, it no doubt could be difficult to source in Australia.

I’m going to err on the side of niceness here and give it 4 stars, even though I tossed up giving it 3. I don’t want to short change a nice new offering that thinks about power solutions in a way that tweens are going to understand. The environment matters!

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